Like most software developers, Autodesk maintains a list of system requirements for VRED that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your system will work with their software. However, this "system requirements" list only covers the very basics of what hardware is needed to run the software, not what hardware will actually give the best performance. Because of how inconsistent those lists can be, we've taken the time to perform testing to determine what hardware run VRED the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommended hardware for VRED.
When it comes to CPUs there are two main specifications that define the capability of a CPU:
- The frequency directly affects how many operations a single CPU core can complete in a second (how fast it is).
- The number of cores is how many physical cores there are within a CPU (how many operations it can run simultaneously).
Whether a high frequency or high core count CPU is better depends on how well a program is designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores (often referred to as multi-threading). In VRED, there are a number of times when either a high core count or high frequency is better so which type of CPU to choose will depend on what you are doing and how you are using VRED.
If you are primarily concerned with performance when rendering or ray tracing, a system with a high number of cores - including multiple physical CPUs - is going to be ideal. These tasks are very good at running in parallel (using multiple CPU cores) so more cores generally means better performance. If you are more concerned about live OpenGL rendering performance, however, a CPU with a higher frequency will tend to give you a higher FPS (frames per second) in the viewport. If you want to do live ray tracing, this will usually require a cluster with rendering nodes as a single machine is likely not going to be powerful enough to achieve adequate performance on it's own.
Video Card (GPU)
While rendering and ray tracing does not leverage the GPU, the video card is used heavily for live OpenGL rendering and impacts how many frames per second (FPS) you are able to achieve in the viewport. A higher FPS will result in a smoother and overall better experience when rotating, zooming, or panning around the model you are working on and is essential for VR. In general, 30 FPS is considered a minimum acceptable framerate for a standard display while 90 FPS is the minimum for VR applications.
For Virtual Reality with either the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or powerwalls/caves; VRED is able to leverage dual GPUs in SLI configurations to achieve higher performance than what is possible with a single video card. Unlike many other applications where both video cards are used together to render the scene for each eye, VRED is capable of using "multicast mode" which dedicates a GPU to rendering the scene for each eye. This results in much lower CPU overhead and allows the GPUs to work much more efficiently - allowing up to a 2x increase in performance with multiple video cards. More information on this technology is available in the NVIDIA post VR SLI: Accelerating OpenGL Virtual Reality with Multi-GPU Rendering.
While GeForce cards can technically work in VRED, Autodesk's official policy is that they "only recommend and support the professional NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro graphics family cards" [source]. Because of this, our recommended systems only utilize NVIDIA Quadro video cards. Be aware that Quadro cards typically only have DVI and Displayport outputs, so if you are using a VR headset that requires HDMI you may need to use adapters which in some instances can cause framerate issues.
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on your particular projects, for VRED we generally recommend a starting point of 32GB. Very complex scenes may need up to 64GB of RAM, although it is rare for VRED to require more than 64GB.
Storage (Hard Drives)
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and the installation of VRED itself. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive. If your budget allows, it is also a very good idea to have a second SSD that can be used to store your active projects to further decrease load and save times.
Since SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB, for long term storage we recommend using a traditional hard drive (or two if you need even more storage!). Using a SSD can be useful in some situations, but most of the time the high performance of an SSD is simply not required for a storage drive.